Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

After Cleanup, Middle Fork Snoqualmie Recreation Areas Bracing For Crowds

The Middle Fork of the Snoqualmie River has long been thought to have huge potential as a recreational area, less than an hour from Seattle. It’s at the heart of roughly 1.5 million acres of open space in the Mountains to Sound Greenway along I-90. But for decades, the valley was so trashed that even local law enforcement considered it dangerous.

That’s changing, now that a new paved road into the area is nearing completion.

Mark Boyar stands on the side of a trail near the newly paved Middle Fork Road looking at a twisted wreck of rusty metal embedded in the forest floor.

Credit Bellamy Pailthorp / KNKX
"A 'final relic...of the 'battle days of the Middle Fork,'" says longtime activist Mark Boyar of this old car, dumped on the forest floor.

“It’s one of the final relics of what we all know as the battle days of the Middle Fork,” Boyar says with a laugh. “There used to be over 150 vehicles that had been shot at, burned, stolen, chopped up for parts, and [that] really kind of gave the valley the old reputation as a very, very lawless place.”

Meth labs and unauthorized target ranges on junked TVs and cars used to make the forests here a scary place to visit. Boyar is one of the old-time activists who helped clean it up, starting three decades ago. Now he’s on the board of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust, which has been instrumental in transforming the area into to what they’re expecting to be a destination for all kinds of recreation.

The Greenway’s executive director, Jon Hoekstra, says they’ve done it by forming partnerships with government agencies to move the land here into public ownership. Now much of it is a conservation area, in state hands.

“Forest roads have been decommissioned, which took away the hiding places, the chop shops and meth labs and car dumpers and junkers had to hide in. So it cleaned up the valley,” he said.  

They’ve put in and planned dozens of new trails and improved many old ones. Five projects are underway this summer alone, with funding from both public and private sources. But the biggest draw will likely be the new 10-mile road at the heart of it all, which is expected to formally open next fall.  

“What used to be a terrible, rutted, potholed, inaccessible place is suddenly going to be very accessible, 45 minutes from downtown Seattle, allowing for traffic,” Hoekstra said.  

If it all pans out as predicted, there’s concern even new parking areas, with room for hundreds of cars, won’t accommodate the crowds. So the Greenway Trust and its partners are exploring a possible shuttle system from North Bend.

People who want to check it out before the official completion can visit when road work is not going on; the road is mostly paved already and opens to the public from noon Friday to noon Monday most weekends.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment for KNKX with an emphasis on climate justice, human health and food sovereignty. She enjoys reporting about how we will power our future while maintaining healthy cultures and livable cities. Story tips can be sent to